Monday, August 2, 2010

The ISS Heats Up


A spacewalk will be necessary to replace a faulty cooling system on the American side of the International Space Station.

NASA.gov reports that an unscheduled spacewalk will be required to replace a failed ammonia pump module on the International Space Station.

Expedition 24 astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson currently are scheduled to start the repairs on the station’s starboard truss Friday. Fellow astronauts Cady Coleman and Suni Williams spent the afternoon in the Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory practicing underwater the tasks needed to restore the cooling loop over the course of two spacewalks.

The cooling system is apparently American-built equipment. According to a Florida Today article:

The disabled pump has been at the space station since 2002 and operating fully since just 2006; it was a premature failure. The electrical short is believed to be internal to the pump. Engineers believe a new pump will solve the problem, but there is no guarantee ... If both cooling loops were to fail, the Russian side of the space station would have to carry the entire cooling load. The crew would have just enough time to attempt emergency repairs before, in all likelihood, abandoning ship in Russian Soyuz capsules to return to Earth.

Many of those opposing President Obama's FY 2011 NASA budget proposal have claimed it's wrong to rely on Russian technology because it's inferior. But this incident shows the United States isn't perfect either. That's why it's important to collaborate with other nations, not go it alone.

14 comments:

  1. Maybe at some point they will finally get a machine shop up there and fix stuff. Call it preparation for long term beyond Earth orbit exploration.. when your coolant pump breaks down on the way to Mars you can't call for the Shuttle to bring you a new one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I made that very point last night to my wife, who commented that living on ISS was "too dangerous." If we're going to send humans on deep-space missions, we'd better learn how to be self-reliant because there will be no easy escape on a Mars mission.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good point QuantumG, but if they have not already designed in the infrastructure necessary to support such activities, it is too late now. Machining is a dirty and polluting activity. Even drilling a simple hole inside the ISS is problematic. You sure don't want metal or other chips or filings floating around inside the ISS. Not only that the lubricants (usually oil) are toxic and explosive especially when atomized as they are during the milling process.

    ReplyDelete
  4. gdauth, I didn't say it was a solved problem.. that's the point of the ISS: to learn how to work in space.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think that the point was that it is too late to learn these types of repairs on the ISS if they did not design in the necessary infrastructure. They would need a machine shop module that would isolate the waste from any machining operation. Besides, if they don't already have in on board, it is unlikely they will be able to get it up there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What's with the can't do attitude? You're definitely not getting to Mars that way.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well I guess that you still missed my point and what Anonymous tried to clarify for you. Simply put, you can't just ship a milling machine to the ISS. You have to design a module and special equipment for zero G and vacuum. To my knowledge, this has not been done. Even if you had such a module ready to go, without heavy lift capability getting it up there is problematic, since the shuttle's last flight is probably early next year. As for getting to Mars, there is time enough to learn how to do things like repairs and manufacturing equipment in space. It will probably be at least 20 - 30 years before we are ready to send man to Mars, if ever.

    I suggest that you visit a factory where machining occurs, then translate that to a zero G and vacuum environment. Your average Bridgeport milling machine will need a lot of redesign to work in space.

    Finally, it is not a "can't do attitude" we were saying that there is a lot of design and work that has to be done and you can't just go off half cocked and start machining widgets on the ISS.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is actually a good point that illustrates the wisdom of Obama's proposal to focus on technology instead of a target and timeline. You can't just fly to Mars like you fly to the Moon. It will take technology like a "space machine shop" to make repairs along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  9. gdauth, I'm not saying it is easy, I'm saying that it seems that whenever you identify a problem you throw up your hands and declare it can't be done.

    "It will probably be at least 20 - 30 years before we are ready to send man to Mars, if ever."

    For example. What I'm saying is that *with your attitude* you're probably right.

    ReplyDelete
  10. QuantumG, I am afraid that you have no idea what my attitude really is. Twenty to thirty years is not my estimate of when we go to Mars. Those figures have been published frequently in the US press. As for 'if ever', that is also a possibility since there are factions in this country that are against manned space flight, we have a bad fiscal problem and NASA is a convenient target. Also it seems that there are a growing number of Luddites in this country that view science and engineering as a waste or something to be feared. Finally, my training taught me to look at the possibilities, good and bad. If you have an idea of what can befall you, you have a better chance of overcoming difficulties or planning to avoid them.

    Politically, space flight is a stepchild except where jobs are concerned. Finally, I do not believe that Obama is committed to manned deep space missions. In my opinion, he has not outlined a clear vision or set goals that people can align behind. Goals are important, but that does not mean that they can't be changed later. A vision is important because along with goals they can inspire people. In the past NASA in spired a whole generation of scientists and engineers, it just has not done so recently. It has become ho hum. This is mainly the fault of our political leaders, both Republican and Democrat. However, the American people deserve some blame, we have become jaded. Except for here on the Space Coast, launches of shuttles and rockets do not receive much notice unless something goes wrong. They are generally not covered by TV or the print media. Now that the shuttle is winding down, interest has picked up, but once it is gone people will forget about it. And if that happens that will be the end of manned space flight. Why, because without popular interest, funding will gradually dry up. That is why goals, vision, inspiration, excitement are important. Without them we as a people lose interest, and support for this important endeavor will wane.

    So, pointing out problems does not mean that I give up and will not support a manned deep space program, quite the opposite. Listing problems is only prudent, something that I learned in my research career and later in my second career in industry. Finally, I am not sure why you object to pointing out possible problems unless you don't like those who disagree with your point of view.

    ReplyDelete
  11. and my point was that if you don't start *doing* you'll never get over the problems. You don't advocate doing anything, you just point out problems. If you want to be prudent about pointing out problems, append some examples of comparable problems that have been overcome before, otherwise you're just inviting doomsayers.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Well QG, what is wrong with you? You have not come up with any solutions. Is your brain a blank? All you have done is dump on another poster. What have you contributed? You are just as bad as he/she is.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous, back in your box until you learn to login.. coward.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have the option to disable Anonymous posts. If those posting anonymously are going to abuse that privilege, I will turn it off and you will either have to identify yourself or you will be silenced.

    So let's all play nice.

    ReplyDelete